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In historic first, Israeli novel translated into Moroccan Arabic to be sold in Morocco

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The novel “A Girl in a Blue Shirt” by Tel Aviv University Professor, Gabriel Bensimhon, was translated earlier this month

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In a historic first for Israel-Morocco ties, an Israeli novel has been translated to Moroccan Arabic and will be sold in Morocco.

The novel “A Girl in a Blue Shirt” by Prof. Gabriel Bensimhon was translated earlier this month.  According to Tel Aviv University (TAU), “this is the first time ever that an Israeli novel has been translated into Arabic in Morocco.” 

Bensimhon, who himself has Moroccan heritage, is a member of the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at TAU

Speaking about his background and the fact that his book will be read in his home country, Bensimhon said that he “grew up in the town of Sefrou in Morocco until I immigrated to Israel at the age of 10.” 

“As an academic, I have studied Moroccan culture extensively,” he explained. “There was always a warm corner in my heart for the rich and multi-faceted aspects that characterize the Moroccan culture.” 

Bensimhon stressed that as a Moroccan Jew, he has come to realize and actualize a dream. 

“The fact that my works are read in my hometown is a source of great personal pride,” he said. “My play ‘A Moroccan King,’ which was produced in the National Theatre ‘Habima’ in Tel Aviv and won ‘The Lieber Prize’… is supposed to be produced by the National Theatre Mohammed V in Rabat,”

Bensimhon added that he hopes “that in the wake of the peace accords, novels and works by additional Israeli authors will be translated into Moroccan”.

According to TAU, the novel tells of a complicated love story between an immigrant boy from Morocco and an Israeli-born girl, who herself is in love with a Holocaust survivor. 

“[It’s set] against the background of the early years of the State of Israel and during the influx of Jewish immigrants from Morocco,” the university said. 

Amazingly, the book was chosen for translation by Prof. Mohamed Elmedlaoui of the Mohammed V University of Rabat “who has been following and researching Bensimhon’s works in the fields of literature and theater.”
It was translated by Elmedlaoui’s student, Dr. Ayashi Eladraoui.

For Middle East affairs expert and TAU Deputy Rector Prof. Eyal Zisser, the translation of Bensimhon’s book into Moroccan Arabic “is an additional tier towards renewed comradeship”.

“We are recently witnessing a growing interest of the Arab world in Israel and its culture, in particular with regard to Israelis from Arab countries,” he explained. “We have seen this in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.” 

Zisser pointed out that the immigration waves of Jews from Arab states to Israel, “who inhabited these countries for periods of over a thousand years, caused great economic damage.” 

“Hence,” he concluded, “it is not surprising to find, against the background of the normalization agreements, that there is a yearning for the old times when Jews and Muslims coexisted.”

*Featured Image: The cover of ‘The Girl in the Blue Shirt’ presented in Moroccan Arabic. (Credit: Supplied/Tel Aviv University)

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